Rethinking Your Work (Book Review)
Rethinking Your Work (Book Review)
By Kathryn Britton
December 13, 2009
By Kathryn Britton -
“Can you imagine … looking forward to work every day? … Knowing that you make a
difference and feeling good about the work you do?” So starts this book by Val Kinjerski
about taking action to improve the quality of our work lives.
BOOK REVIEW: Kinjerski, V. (2009). Rethinking Your Work: Getting to the Heart of What
Matters. Kaizen Publishing.
Dr. Val Kinjerski
Val Kinjerski earned a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta in Canada studying what she calls spirit at
work. Spirit at work involves having a sense of alignment between what is important to us and the
work we do, as well as a sense of connection to others, a common purpose, and something larger than
self. Spirit at work seems to give people energy that buoys them up in spite of inevitable challenges.
Dr. Kinjerski’s research involved interviewing 13 people in a wide variety of full-time work, all of
whom were self-identified as experiencing high levels of spirit at work. From the information gathered
from the interviews, she developed workshops and a spirit-at-work program. Then she conducted an
evaluation of the impact of the workshops in a health care setting, using before and after questionnaires
about work attitudes and well-being, focus groups, and examination of absenteeism and turnover in both
the study group and a control group.
In Rethinking Your Work and its accompanying guidebook, Dr. Kinjerski makes her findings accessible
to a broad audience.
What Does Spirit at Work Mean?
The first half of the book explores this question using stories collected from her interviews with people
in a wide range of job roles, including a nurse, a doctor, a car-park attendant, a policewoman, a teacher,
a real estate agent, a landscape designer, a dentist, a social worker, a writer, and a hairdresser.
She describes and illustrates four dimensions of spirit at work: engaging work, a sense of community,
spiritual connection (unity with humanity and the transcendent), and mystical experience (state of
positive energy that sounds like flow). Here is an example from the policewoman, Sandra, that shows
clarity of purpose:
I like people and I like helping them. … And no matter what I am doing in my work, I know that I am
helping them. Even if it is a bad situation and I am fighting with them or I am forcing them into the
police car. I am still helping someone who has been hurt or might be hurt by that person. … I don’t care
if they are yelling and swearing and screaming at me; I still think I am helping ….
Fostering Spirit at Work
In the second part of the book, Kinjerski describes four approaches to increasing spirit at work. Some
people are lucky enough to do what they love. Her approaches can help the rest of us learn to love what
For each of the four approaches, she lists very specific actions that you can take. For example, to
increase your connections to other people at work, become curious about them and ask questions such as
“What are your interests?” or “What is it about this work that attracted you to your job?” The
accompanying guidebook has specific exercises to work on these approaches. Each chapter ends with 5
to 11 reflection questions to help you put the main points to work in your own life.
1. Appreciate self and others.
Among other things, that means: Understand your unique contribution to work. Recognize the
contributions of others. Show respect. Get interested in others at work. Show up and be
Sample reflection question: “How can you show others how to treat you differently?” p. 90
2. Live purposefully and consciously.
Among other things that means: Be mindful. Figure out what you are supposed to be doing.
Check the alignment of your life with your purpose.
Sample reflection question: “What would you do if you were 10 times bolder?” p. 128
3. Cultivate a spiritual, values-based life.
Among other things, that means: Find the meaning in the meaningless. See the poetry in the
everyday. Choose optimism and forgiveness.
Sample reflection question: “What is one task you do at work that at first seems meaningless but
on closer examination holds much meaning?” p. 156
4. Refill your cup.
Among other things that means: Evaluate how you are doing in mind, body, spirit, and heart. Be
good to yourself. Disengage. One of my favorites: Drop a few plates. Let go of negative self-talk.
Sample reflection question: “When you listen to your body, what is it telling you?” p. 183
In the introduction, Dr. Kinjerski comments that we can often improve our work lives by becoming clear
about what is important to us and then by thinking about work differently. In that way, we put power
into our own hands. We determine the quality of our work lives, instead of waiting for someone else to
make our lives better. This is a great reminder accompanied by a lot of practical suggestions. I am happy
to have this book on my shelf.
Kinjerski, V. (2009). Rethinking Your Work: Getting to the Heart of What Matters. Kaizen Publishing.
Kinjerski, V. & Skrypnek, B. (2008). Four paths to spirit at work: Journeys of personal meaning,
fulfiilment, well-being, and transcendence through work. The Career Development Quarterly, 56, 319-
Kinjerski, V. & Skrypnek, B. (2006). Creating organizational conditions that foster employee spirit at
work. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 27(4), 280-295.
Kinjerski, V. (2005). Exploring spirit at work: The interconnectedness of personality, personal actions,
organizational features, and the paths to spirit at work. Dissertation, University of Alberta, Canada.
Dissertation Abstracts International AAINQ95954.
Kinjerski, V. & Skrypnek, B. (2004). Defining spirit at work: Finding common ground. Journal of
Organizational Change Management, 17(1), 26-42.
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